Plastic UPS trucks could be the next big, brown thing

A UPS truck that's 1,000 lbs lighter than a standard one, that gets 40 percent better fuel economy and helps save 84 million gallons of fuel annually? It's not a hybrid or some fancy fuel burner. Plastics make it possible.

Through December of this year, the company that brown built is testing five new prototype trucks, each made from plastic and composite materials. The new trucks, some say, could get around 14 miles per gallon — making each one a veritable Prius in package-delivery terms. Such efficiency gains will come mainly by way of its lighter weight and smaller diesel engine.

The CV-23, as it's known, is the product of Utilimaster and Isuzu. During an eight-month testing period, the new trucks will get heavy usage on some of UPS's most punishing routes, in Lincoln, Nebraska; Albany, New York, and Tucson, Arizona. Afterward, the company will decide whether or not to fold the new, plastic trucks into its fleet of 70,000 vehicles.

And maybe someday, we won't even see a massive, brown whirlpool of the things circling the Pacific Ocean.